Author Topic: Wuorinen's Whirlygig  (Read 24504 times)

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karlhenning

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Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« on: September 07, 2007, 05:03:20 AM »
Can't believe we haven't started this thread yet!

This morning, after an unconscionably long interval, I have revisited the marvelous, zesty String Sextet.  It goes well with "New England Eye-Opener" coffee, or indeed, as a substitute for that strengthening, stimulating beverage.

At Arkivmusic, a review from Fanfare is cited:

Quote from: Eric J. Bruskin
Like Homer’s rosy-fingered dawn, Charles Wuorinen seems destined to be forever attached by lazy writers to one epithet or another along the lines of “brainy” or “intellectual” or “complex,” usually as some sort of backhanded esteem. As if Bach or Mozart weren’t all of those things too! When I listen to Wuorinen, I am put in mind of Mendelssohn or Haydn more than Schoenberg or Webern. Wuorinen uses some pretty hard-core serial techniques, but they’re in the deep background. The music always sounds lively, with wide-ranging humor from chortling to all-out guffaws (as when a snatch of something sounding like "Camptown Races" falls out of the finale of the Piano Quintet; this is also the composer that dropped a bald-faced quotation of the opening of the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto into a piano piece called The Blue Bamboula).

bwv 1080

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2007, 04:46:17 PM »
That being said, how many Wuorinen pieces from the 60's do you listen to often?  It always seemed to me that the earlier work was in an awkward space - trying for traditional aesthetic goals with a very complex serial language - similar to some of the same problems that Schoenberg had.  The works seem to lack the unifying gestures that Boulez or Wolpe would have with similar pitch and rhythmic material.  It is with his later music like the Mass for the Restoration of St. Lukes where Wuorinen comes into his own (although I like Speculum Speculi quite a bit), because at the bottom of it he is a damn fine melodist (the Mendelssohn analogy seems particularly apt) who perhaps could not quite find his way in the avant guard environment of the 60's and early 70's. 

karlhenning

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2007, 05:15:43 AM »
I do revisit Ringing Changes from time to time, but that is from 1970, so I wonder if that doesn't underscore the point  8)

The Chamber Concerto for Cello and 10 Players (1963), though, I remember finding a strong and likeable piece.  I think I'll revisit both these pieces today . . . .

Offline Catison

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2007, 05:58:02 AM »
That being said, how many Wuorinen pieces from the 60's do you listen to often?

Many of you know what a supporter of Babbitt I am.  But it was not until I heard Time's Encomium that I really understood the pure electronic noise music of the 60's.  That piece really did deserve the Pulitzer it earned.
-Brett

gomro

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2007, 05:29:22 PM »
That being said, how many Wuorinen pieces from the 60's do you listen to often?  It always seemed to me that the earlier work was in an awkward space - trying for traditional aesthetic goals with a very complex serial language - similar to some of the same problems that Schoenberg had.  The works seem to lack the unifying gestures that Boulez or Wolpe would have with similar pitch and rhythmic material.  It is with his later music like the Mass for the Restoration of St. Lukes where Wuorinen comes into his own (although I like Speculum Speculi quite a bit), because at the bottom of it he is a damn fine melodist (the Mendelssohn analogy seems particularly apt) who perhaps could not quite find his way in the avant guard environment of the 60's and early 70's. 

Prior to 1979, I considered Wuorinen an interesting but unessential composer. With the appearance of the Two Part Symphony, though, something subtly changed in Wuorinen's work. I've never been able to put my finger on it, but something within his music opened up, drew me in, made the works more than complicated musical acrostics. His music is now a cornerstone of my diet; there are more pieces that I return to again and again than I can list, but among them are New York Notes, The Mission of Virgil, Mass, Genesis, all of the delightfully eccentric Trios for various instruments... I have hoped for a recording of the opera Haroun and the Sea Of Stories, but so far only The Haroun Songbook, generated from the operatic material, has made it to disc.

karlhenning

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2007, 02:54:27 PM »
I must go back to Time's Encomium and listen again.

gomro

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2007, 04:52:14 PM »
Many of you know what a supporter of Babbitt I am.  But it was not until I heard Time's Encomium that I really understood the pure electronic noise music of the 60's.  That piece really did deserve the Pulitzer it earned.

I have been told that it received that prize, in part, because within it were recognizable themes that could be whistled or hummed -- and were whistled and hummed by one of the judges, to prove that point.  It isn't really a favorite piece of mine; the musical composition itself is beautiful and complex, but the timbre of the ancient RCA Synthesizer colours the whole enterprise with a clattering racket worse than any 8-bit Nintendo game.   

I don't believe Wuorinen has written any more major pieces for tape alone, but New York Notes, for chamber ensemble and digitally generated sounds on tape, is a favorite.

bwv 1080

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2007, 02:44:35 PM »
but the timbre of the ancient RCA Synthesizer colours the whole enterprise with a clattering racket worse than any 8-bit Nintendo game.   



Never could get past that myself.  Same with Babbitt's Philomel.  Perhaps Wuorinen could arrange it for some other instrumentation

karlhenning

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2007, 09:01:06 AM »
Naxos will issue the complete Dante Trilogy with first releases of live recordings of Oliver Knussen and The Group for Contemporary Music performing The Great Procession and The River of Light . . . full press release is attached.

gomro

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2007, 12:54:26 PM »
Naxos will issue the complete Dante Trilogy with first releases of live recordings of Oliver Knussen and The Group for Contemporary Music performing The Great Procession and The River of Light . . . full press release is attached.

Not to gaze into the mandibles of a donated equus, but I wish that Mission of Virgil was a recording of the orchestrated version, rather than a remaster of the two-piano reduction released on Koch some time ago. That's a really fine work, one I can listen to again and again, but I'd sure like to hear it with Wuorinen's incredible sense of orchestral colour evident.

gomro

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2007, 01:42:31 PM »
I do revisit Ringing Changes from time to time, but that is from 1970, so I wonder if that doesn't underscore the point  8)

The Chamber Concerto for Cello and 10 Players (1963), though, I remember finding a strong and likeable piece.  I think I'll revisit both these pieces today . . . .

Yesterday I put my complete Wuorinen collection (with the exception of Cyclops 2000 and Reliquary for Igor Stravinsky, which I haven't ripped yet)on the mp3 player, for commute listening (I have a pretty long trip). The Chamber Concerto and Ringing Changes are, of course, among the works there, but today's trip was spent revisiting Genesis and Mass, absolutely incredible works that not only exemplify Wuorinen's melodic artistry, but also his skillful writing for voices, creating a beautiful yet massive sound, where no voice sounds forced or ragged.  I'd definitely recommend those works for anyone seeking Intro To Wuorinen 101.

Offline Brewski

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2007, 09:23:02 AM »
According to a column in today's New York Daily News, Wuorinen is going to do the operatic version of Brokeback Mountain.  (I'm not sure I can visualize the story as an opera, but there you go.) 

The complete story here.

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gomro

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2008, 03:49:26 PM »
Naxos will issue the complete Dante Trilogy with first releases of live recordings of Oliver Knussen and The Group for Contemporary Music performing The Great Procession and The River of Light . . . full press release is attached.

I purchased the Dante Trilogy last week; as mentioned earlier, I was very familiar with the two-piano version of Mission of Virgil, but the other two pieces (scored for chamber ensemble; who knows if the orchestral versions will ever be recorded) were unknown quantities -- but they are fantastic.  Sorta Bartoky...Stravinskoid...a little Schoenbergish in places... but all of it very, very much Wuorinen, with his usual complex counterpoint, catchy rhythms, inimitable sense of "atonal melody" and exquisite orchestration. It's on Naxos, so there's no reason not to have one! Beautiful! Perfect "Intro to Wuorinen" disc, too.

greg

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2008, 04:35:37 PM »
I must go back to Time's Encomium and listen again.
wasn't that the electronic piece with lots of spacing stuff going on?
i listened to that once a long time ago and loved it! Found it very fascinating, but now i've forgotten that piece even existed......

karlhenning

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2008, 05:48:59 AM »
I purchased the Dante Trilogy last week; as mentioned earlier, I was very familiar with the two-piano version of Mission of Virgil, but the other two pieces (scored for chamber ensemble; who knows if the orchestral versions will ever be recorded) were unknown quantities -- but they are fantastic.  Sorta Bartoky...Stravinskoid...a little Schoenbergish in places... but all of it very, very much Wuorinen, with his usual complex counterpoint, catchy rhythms, inimitable sense of "atonal melody" and exquisite orchestration. It's on Naxos, so there's no reason not to have one! Beautiful! Perfect "Intro to Wuorinen" disc, too.

It is terrific;  I fetched in a copy from Borders before it had quite cooled on the shelf.

karlhenning

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2008, 05:49:50 AM »
wasn't that the electronic piece with lots of spacing stuff going on?
i listened to that once a long time ago and loved it! Found it very fascinating, but now i've forgotten that piece even existed......

Yes, that was the piece which earned the Pulitzer. I need to give that a fresh listen . . . .

Offline edward

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #16 on: April 01, 2008, 11:23:44 AM »
Fans of this composer may be interested in a new Naxos issue: http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.559377

Incidentally, when I searched for wuorinen to find this thread, GMG informed me: You may have meant to search for whoring.
"I don't at all mind actively disliking a piece of contemporary music, but in order to feel happy about it I must consciously understand why I dislike it. Otherwise it remains in my mind as unfinished business."
 -- Aaron Copland, The Pleasures of Music

Offline Brewski

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #17 on: April 01, 2008, 11:25:40 AM »
Fans of this composer may be interested in a new Naxos issue: http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.559377

Incidentally, when I searched for wuorinen to find this thread, GMG informed me: You may have meant to search for whoring.

The new disc looks great...but your comment made me burst out laughing!  ("Rob, Rob...what kind of wacko software are you using?"   ;D)

--Bruce
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Joe Barron

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #18 on: April 01, 2008, 01:22:23 PM »
Weird. I was  looking for whoring and it sent me here ...

Offline Brewski

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Re: Wuorinen's Whirlygig
« Reply #19 on: April 01, 2008, 01:35:23 PM »
I just searched for Martinů...and it suggested "martini."  ;D

--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY